self-styled

I’ve found out that there are a lot of good men out there.

Should I insert ‘self-styled’ before ‘good’?

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“That sounds horrible!” She exclaimed, leaning an elbow on the counter as if it were second nature. “Yes, it is. That’s why I try to keep my mind off it.” She nodded. “No wonder! The strain you’re under must be incredible!” I nodded, pressed my lips together. “Hey – ” she shifted forward. “Your eyes look so sad. Since when are your eyes so sad?”

“Oh, I don’t know, since it all started I suppose. Yes, everyone has commented.”

“So it’s not just me that has noticed. Oh, what will you do?”

I glared at her, said very slowly, “I’m trying not to talk about it, at all. I came here to relax. And let my mind feed on other things.” She nodded, and I turned back to what was in front of me. In a minute she will go away, I told myself. I am going to browse the fuck out of these friendship bracelets and I will forget all else.

“Are you going to get one for a friend?” She asked, lifting herself off the counter. “I might,” I answered, beginning to feel the absorption in the incredible shininess in front of me take hold. “You’re going to give it to her tonight?” She asked softly. “Maybe tomorrow,” I murmured. Purple is a colour very easily done wrong, I thought. There’s good purple and then there’re the purple dolphins at Walmart and that’s another thing entirely.

“So you’re still going out with friends?” I made a noise of assent. “Where are you going to go?” I shrugged. “We usually just eat and talk or coffee and talk. No big deal.”

“What are the names of the restaurants you go to? Like the names and the neighborhood.” Suddenly I felt a little cold, and turned to look her full in the face. “Why do you ask that?” I asked her quietly. She jumped back. “Well fine, I mean if you’re embarrassed to let me know how you spend your time then well whatever.”

The next day, over coffee I told Vicki what had happened. “What a weirdo. Don’t go back there,” she told me, removing two unground coffee beans from her drink with a shrug. “I don’t know dude,” I said, leaning back in my chair. “Maybe like, when she’s not there?” She set the beans down gently on a napkin, as if they were set aside for later use. Then she looked up at me and shook her head. “This is the same woman who wanted to know if your hair was naturally that colour and what brand of mascara you used and where you lived and if you had seen that boy you mentioned was hot one day and she’s never forgotten a single detail of your life, has she?”

“No. She remembers as if she were keeping notes.”

“So no, I don’t care what the prices are like, she’s the owner, never go back.”

“Do you ever wonder how many people we know are just, like, drifters? Not completely sane and with all sorts of horrible back stories but you can hide it in a big city, and they do, and we never know, unless our lives intersect too deeply and then very suddenly we’re in what feels like a parallel world?”

She pursed her lips to answer, but we simulataneously caught sight of a little girl running seemingly towards us in a frilly little dress, with a perfect little bob, running and dancing and twirling. She couldn’t have been over four. I began to smile until I saw her face.

It was red and crumpled in tears, even as her tiny body kept moving cheerfully.

note to guest

When I affirmed that you could crash on my couch for a night or two, it was implicitly understood on my part that you were not to turn it into a Jamaican dance hall. Also the game of what-is-in-this-cupboard? Amusing to none but yourself.

Wait, I think I smell marijuana.

Where’s Havana?

oh oscar

Probably my number one advice to would-be suitors would be to not quote Oscar Wilde out of context. To me, specifically. Paraphrasing is even more, shall we say, frowned upon.

Especially – I’m looking at you, guy who has no idea this blog exists or otherwise would plagiarize it – if between the puffs of cigarette smoke you blow on my face as seduction, you happen to mention that you’ve never read Wilde outside of his quotes. Do not raise your eyebrow after such an utterance.

I’m also looking at you, guy who doesn’t read anything on the Internet except porn – wait, sorry, guy who reads nothing on the Internet – because mocking my love of Wilde by asking if he were some new hotshot hipster writer with a beard made me die, a little inside, right there in the passenger side of your sport utility vehicle.

In essence – well, in essence you should already have said something better. You should have said something you thought of yourself.

in praise of mumbles

I am not always brilliant or well spoken. I think the people that are – it has to be affectation.

Sometimes life is very simple. Sometimes you will be asked very practical questions and to expound upon your answers will leave your audience breathless with annoyance. As in, “Could you go for a hamburger?”

There is no dishonor is answering “Sure,” or even “Could totally go for that,” or some variant with ‘bro’, ‘dude’, or ‘man’.

inflections

“What are you looking at?” I asked him at length, seeing the slight curve of a smile and the attentive hand-on-chin. “I like listening to you,” he said softly. “I like the tone and inflections of your voice, ”

“Even though it’s deep?” I interjected.

“I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t really ascribed any qualities to it, per se. I just like the inflections, the way – you know, it seems to be some sort of an epidemic among girls, to end sentences with an upward lilt, as if they were asking a question. Have you heard that?”

Oh tiger, I’ve heard everything, I thought, and smiled.

Vienna Blood

In the afternoon I watched the sun burn pale orange after a day of intermittent rain, and I felt convinced that everything was okay, in that wide and sweepingly perfect sense. Had the new year come then I would have, without doubt, welcomed it broadly.

It did not, of course, and later I stood with a bag of cold raw food that will later turn delicious with heat and spices, looking at the nighttime sky, looking at the moon, and I smiled at the person next to me because I had been able to afford everything I needed for the new year. Well, almost everything. I had a new pair of cotton underwear in my trunk and I had the aforementioned frozen food and I had systematically picked out every bit of trash from my car, and that was something.

I don’t know if it was the radio or an old cassette he had – I only knew that suddenly the car was filled with the sounds of ‘Vienna Blood’, instantly recognizable, and I stopped eating my cucumber. It went on, played in its entirety, and then there was silence – at any rate I didn’t hear anything. “Are you thinking of your childhood in Vienna?” he asked me. “I suppose I would be awfully homesick if I were you. It is Vienna, isn’t it? Or Granada? Or Lucerne? Same difference, right?” I gripped the steering wheel and watched my knuckles turn white. This is the last time I will wonder if he is purposefully riling me, I told myself. I would rather be alone with a bottle of champagne and drink until I saw Vienna, or Granada, or Lucerne and believed myself there than ever, ever wonder this same thing again. I have no need for friends who are only sometimes kind.

They say – I don’t know which they – that if you listen to ‘Vienna Blood’ you will know what it is like to feel Viennese blood course through your veins, even if you can’t spell it. They say watch ‘Gone With The Wind’ to see the Old South. They say you have to dance the tango in Argentina to appreciate it fully and you have have to drink Cuban coffee to say you’ve had coffee at all. There is a dictate for every food and experience and dance. Perhaps they’ve issued dictates for smells as well.

And in between these spoken and printed words are the people of these places, whose flesh and blood give rise to subsequent generations of the same flesh and blood. They are the delicate fauna that tourists watch closest of all.

My heart is like a peony, large when it is closed and larger still when it opens. Across an unforgiving ocean of time and space there is a very delicate fauna, a singular one, who knew the city where I was born and the city where I spent my childhood and which colour of the sky was my favourite – which is to say, who loved me. And because of this imposed delicacy I wonder if he – if he is living, still, and if he does, does he live well? Does he listen to ‘Vienna Blood’ and does his chest constrict like mine? Does his health remain the same, or has it deteriorated further? You would think there would be no longer any questions like these in this modern world, in which one may travel to every corner to experience the dictates of pleasure and knowledge, in which I can talk to you as intimately as if I were whispering in your ear.

There is not only one of you though – there are more. There is a fluctuating number of ears and most likely a limited attention span. I doubt we share the same blood and of course we do not share the same heart and you can no more tell me if he lives and how he lives than you can tell me the shape and colour of my dreams. I would like to believe that some feeling comes across the keyboard, something travels through my fingers right now because I am writing and publishing this at this very moment, and so the feeling, the spark has no time to cool and perhaps travels up your fingers as well. I would like to believe that we are all united in a wish and desire for a better year, a kinder, luckier one – even if we are wishing the good only for ourselves.

And if you can feel this feeling, this spark, this echo of what I mean, even if you do not care for old Austrian cities or cucumbers or peonies, if you can feel it at all, then you know that I wish you a Happy New Year, everyone, anyone who reads these words. And even if you do not care for all of these things or new years either and you believe these human markers of time are only the illusions of fresh starts, even so, please wish him well. I believe that his heart, somewhere, will feel it. And perhaps the delicacy will fade, his health will return, and these wishes will pass over that wide ocean and it will dry, and cease to exist. I believe they can pass, I believe a human heart can somehow feel what another wishes it, because I have to believe, because I want to, and because perhaps in the end blood is only blood, and despite the little differences hearts can beat the same – my heart, your hearts, and his.

Happy New Year.

bad things

“I’m sorry,” he said mid-sentence. “I just realized that you’re a really good person. I’m going to say goodnight now.” My back stiffened. I thought quietly for a moment, then asked him “What did you have in mind?” His eyes passed over my face, up from my chin past my hairline.

“You can’t do bad things to people and justify it by telling yourself they’re just bad people, had it coming.” He looked mournfully at me. “I think I can, actually.” He put his hands in his pockets. “I think I do on a regular basis. Will continue.” I shook my head. I have never been intrigued by inner demons not laid to rest.